FDA New Rules Imported Foods
July 26, 2013

FDA Proposes Tougher Rules On Imported Foods

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing new safety rules for food importers to meet the same safety standards as US Food producers.

According to the FDA, about 50 percent of the fresh fruits and 20 percent of the fresh vegetables consumed by Americans are imported. In total about 150 different countries account for 15 percent of the US food supply.

The new proposals are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed by President Barack Obama. This act aims to modernize the food safety system for the 21st century. FSMA focuses on preventative food safety, rather than relying primarily on responding to problems after the fact, according to the FDA.

With these new rules, importers would be accountable for verifying that their foreign suppliers are implementing modern, prevention-oriented food safety practices, and achieving the same level of food safety as that expected of domestic growers and processors. The government agency is also proposing new rules to help strengthen the quality, objectivity and transparency of foreign food safety audits on which many food companies and importers currently rely.

"We must work toward global solutions to food safety so that whether you serve your family food grown locally or imported you can be confident that it is safe," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "Today's announcement of these two new proposed rules will help to meet the challenges of our complex global food supply system. Our success will depend in large part on partnerships across nations, industries, and business sectors."

US importers will now have a clearly defined responsibility to verify that their suppliers produce food that meets US food safety requirements. Importers will be required to have a plan for imported food, including identifying hazards associated with each food. The FDA said they will also be required to conduct activities that provide adequate assurances that hazards are being controlled.

"FSMA provides the FDA with a modern tool kit that shifts the paradigm for imports, as well as domestic foods, from a strategy of reaction to one of systematic prevention," said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. "Rather than relying primarily on FDA investigators at the ports to detect and respond to food safety problems, importers would, for the first time, be held accountable for verifying, in a manner transparent to the FDA, that the food they import is safe."

The FDA announced more rules back in January 2013 for produce safety and preventive controls in facilities that produce human food. These foods were aimed at helping to prevent food borne illness, requiring makers to develop a formal plan for preventing their food products from causing food borne illness.

The new rules come in the wake of a CDC announcement made yesterday warning of a cyclospora outbreak across a number of US states. The pathogen has already infected some 250 people and is believed to have come from imported produce since the rare parasite is not known to thrive in the US. However, scientists have not yet pinpointed the origin of the outbreak.